Blog for Highland Park

Welcome to the Blog for Highland Park, a weblog chronicling events in Highland Park, NJ from an alternative perspective to the often one-sided slant of the official borough newsletter.

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Location: Highland Park, New Jersey, United States

I am a freelance writer and community activist who has worked on many progressive and Democratic political campaigns over the last 25 plus years and a lifelong resident of Highland Park, NJ. I have a BA in Journalism from Rutgers University, an MA in Middle East Studies from Harvard University, and an MEd in English Education from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. An enthusiastic amateur astronomer, I have just completed Swinburne University Astronomy Online's Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy and am pursuing a Masters of Science in astronomy at Swinburne. I am also an actress with experience in theatre and film and have written a full length play. I am currently working full time on a book "The Little Planet That Would Not Die: Pluto's Story."

Monday, July 31, 2006

Urge Venue Change for Menendez/Stender Fundraiser

The campaigns of US Senator Robert Menendez and Congressional Candidate Linda Stender are making a huge mistake in scheduling a September 17 fundraiser at the home of Mayor Meryl Frank. Under ordinary circumstances, it would make sense to hold a Democratic fundraiser at the home of a local Democratic official. What Menendez, Stender, and their staff do not realize is "ordinary circumstances" do not apply in Highland Park.

Here, in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-1 and where Democrats have been deeply divided into factions as far back as the 1960s, the Democratic primary is usually the main election in town. Today, Democrats in Highland Park are more divided than ever. It is reasonable to say that close to fifty percent of local Democrats do not support Mayor Frank, who will almost certainly face a heavily contested primary next spring. She and her redevelopment policies continue to be highly controversial, and her administration is being investigated by the county prosecutor for misapplication of funds. Frank is clearly a divider, not a uniter.

So while almost all local Democrats are happy to support Menendez for Senate and Stender for Congress (running in a neighboring district against right wing Republican Mike Ferguson), close to half of local party members will likely feel uncomfortable in Frank's home and choose not to attend this fundraiser. Clearly siding with one Democratic faction is hardly a smart move for Menendez and Stender, who need as much support from Democrats across the board as possible to win their races.

Permitting the Highland Park Democratic Committee to hold a silent auction at the fundraiser is also a poor choice. The Democratic candidates running for Borough Council this November have no challengers. That means any money raised by the Democratic Committee will almost certainly go towards its 2007 primary campaign to re-elect Mayor Frank. Using a Democratic event geared to the general election to raise funds for one side in a primary is disingenuous, misleading, and just plain wrong.

This Highland Park fundraiser, whose purpose is to help the Democratic Party take back Congress, is scheduled for September 17. That means there is still enough time for both campaigns to change the venue and to keep the silent auction limited to efforts to win back Congress in November 2006. The best location for a fundraiser like this is a neutral location, where anyone would feel welcome and comfortable. A local restaurant or business with a large area that can accommodate the public would make the best, most ideal location.

That is why I am asking all Democrats, Menendez supporters, and Stender supporters to contact these two campaigns and request a change of venue for this fundraiser. Tell the organizers that you want to support Menendez and Stender but not at Frank's home. Emphasize how important it is to include all Democrats, not just Frank's followers, in their fundraising and get out the vote efforts. Tell them that any silent auction or auxiliary fundraiser should be limited to the 2006 effort to win back Congress and not as a means to piggyback fundraising for a Democratic primary in 2007.

You can reach the Menendez campaign at (201) 271-1661 and the Stender campaign at (908) 322-1996. Together, we can make a difference.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Protest Halper Family's Eviction

There are some things that are so wrong, so unjust, so evil that they demand a response. Such is the travesty scheduled to take place this Monday, July 10, when the Halpers, a family with four children, are scheduled to be evicted from their family farm of 84 years with no financial compensation whatsoever (all is frozen indefinitely) and no relocation assistance. As of 3 PM that day, abuse of eminent domain by Piscataway Township will render them homeless.

Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler has shown no concern for the plight of this family with three quarters of a century of history in the township. He sees nothing wrong in taking the only thing they have, their land, by force--meaning by force of armed sheriff's officers--and leaving six innocent people on the streets. Whatever one's political views, there is no way such an action can be justified, ever. This is not a political issue; it is a human issue, one that "cries before the eyes of God."

More than sixty-five years ago, both my parents' families lost everything they owned, fleeing armed Nazis who turned guns on children. Like many others, they came to the United States, the land of the free, seeking a refuge where they believed such a travesty could never happen.

Now it is happening. And while today it's property and livelihood rather than life itself being taken, make no mistake: it is the dark shadow of fascism, of a government that bullies citizens by force of arms rather than benignly rules by the consent of the governed. This is not the vision our founding fathers and mothers had when they fought the Revolution we celebrated only days ago. Make no mistake: any of our homes and businesses could be next. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

That is why I am asking all who can to take part in this weekend protest against the Halpers' eviction and against eminent domain abuse. The information is below. People are especially needed on Monday, July 10, the date of the eviction. This is our chance to stand up to evil and stand up for justice. We have the power. Please, come and voice your support for this family and your opposition to this travesty. Logistics information is below:

Supporters of Piscataway Township’s Halper family, who stand to be evicted from their 75-acre farm of 84 years, will gather in tents and RVs on the farm in a Woodstock-like protest beginning Saturday, July 8 and continuing until the scheduled eviction onMonday, July 10 at 3 PM.

Described as “Valley Forge without the frostbite andWoodstock without the mud,” the three-day protest will feature musicians, comedians, and other performers who will join opponents ofeminent domain abuse from around the state and country.

On Monday, supporters of the Halpers, a family of six including four children, will peacefully form a chain, described asa “Human Constitution,” around the house at 4 Bella Drive when policearrive to claim the property.

The family has received none of the financial “just compensation” required by law and awarded them by a judge and juryand are being given no relocation assistance by Piscataway Townshipin conjunction with the eviction. SOME is IN ESCROW and frozen.

The human chain is being called a “Human Constitution” because citizens will be doing what the US Constitution should havedone for this family, namely protect their property. HOWEVER, THE FAMILY NOTICED SO MANY CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN THE COURT CASE THAT THEY HIRED SEPARATE ATTORNEYS JUST TO PURSUE THIS ISSUE.

An eight year battle, the Halper’s fight to save their farm was instrumental in the notorious “Machiavelli” incident that sent Democratic fundraiser David D’Amiano to jail and led to GovernorJames E. McGreevey’s resignation.

Piscataway officials claim they are taking the property for open space, but as a farm, it is already open space. The Halpers are committed to preserving it, have turned down offers from developers,and have even unsuccessfully tried to sell development rights for the land to the state of New Jersey.

In spite of this commitment, Piscataway Township has relentlessly sought this property and has obtained several million intaxpayer dollars from Middlesex County to subsidize the taking. Surrounding lands are rapidly being sold to developers forhigh-density housing, and many believe that township officials planto sell this land to add to those developments within several years.

Accusations by township officials that the land is contaminated and a “toxic waste dump” have no basis in fact, as the only chemicals found on the land are mosquito control pesticides usedby the township during the winter.

Concerned citizens and volunteers are asked to join insolidarity with the Halpers and express their outrage over the eviction beginning Saturday, July 8. Participants are especially sought for Monday, July 10 beginning at 11 AM. Anyone interested in participating and any media outletsinterested in covering the protest should call 310-593-4843 or Regular updates on the situation are available at